Tale of the tape: Who has the edge when Notre Dame visits No. 16 Syracuse Saturday

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) and  running back Logan Diggs (3) celebrate during the Notre Dame vs. University of Nevada NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

When Notre Dame has the ball

Quarterback Drew Pyne, 4-1 as the starter, has a 74.2% completion rate with 8.9 yards per attempt, six touchdown passes and one interception in two games away from Notre Dame Stadium (UNC and BYU). … The Irish are tied for 54th in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on just 65.4% of their trips inside the opponents’ 20. They also reached the 16 last week against UNLV before a false-start penalty led to a Pyne interception on third-and-8 from the 21. … Clemson escaped upset-minded Syracuse last week with a 5.9-yard average per carry by the Tigers’ running backs (45 carries, 266 yards). The Orange rank 76th in rushing defense efficiency, per Pro Football Focus, but Notre Dame’s rushing attack is just 93rd. … Irish wideouts have produced just 50 total catches for 652 yards and four touchdowns. That would rank tied for 14th, 22nd and tied for 63rd, respectively, among all individual wide receivers at the FBS level.  

Edge: Syracuse

When Syracuse has the ball

Oct 15, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Sean Tucker (34) runs for a touchdown against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the fourth quarter at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Garrett Shrader, a Mississippi State transfer in his second season with the Orange, has fumbled just once on 99 official rushing attempts. The 6-4, 228-pounder has averaged 3.3 yards after contact while forcing 21 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. … … Syracuse running back Sean Tucker, held to 54 yards on five carries last week at Clemson, is averaging just 4.4 yards per carry and 63.5 yards per game in his last four outings against FBS competition. … Notre Dame is tied for last with Rutgers (82.4 percent) in allowing opponents to score touchdowns on red-zone trips (14 of 17). That included three more TDs last week against UNLV. … The Orange have allowed 18 sacks and rank 56th in pass-block efficiency. Notre Dame is up to 37th in pass-rush efficiency after a three-sack game for Isaiah Foskey last week.

Edge: Notre Dame  

Special Teams

The Irish have blocked four punts this season, including three in the past two games, under first-year coordinator Brian Mason. Isaiah Foskey was credited with two blocked punts in the first quarter last week against UNLV. … Notre Dame ranks 30th in special teams efficiency, per Pro Football Focus, and Syracuse is 27th. The Orange have two blocked kicks or punts.  … With freshman walk-on Zac Yoakam handling kickoffs, Notre Dame ranks 18th nationally in kickoff return rate. … Senior kicker Andre Szmyt, the 2018 Groza Award winner, has missed once in 12 field-goal tries this season with a long of 50 yards. The Lake Forest, Ill., product has a career-long of 54 yards with 15 career misses in 91 tries (83.5 percent).

Notre Dame safety DJ Brown (2) picks up a blocked punt from UNLV punter Marshall Nichols (90) during the Notre Dame vs. UNLV NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Edge: Notre Dame

Coaching

Marcus Freeman moved back to .500 (4-4) for his career with last week’s 44-21 win over UNLV. The Irish are 2-1 in true road games under Freeman and 1-1 indoors, including the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. … Dino Babers, who spent two years apiece leading the programs at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, posted losing records in five of his first six seasons at Syracuse before this year’s turnaround. … The 16th-ranked Orange are tied with Cincinnati for most penalties per game (9.6) among FBS teams. In the loss to Clemson, Syracuse was flagged 10 times for 88 penalty yards. … Notre Dame is tied for eighth in fewest penalties per game (4.3) and 11th in average penalty yardage (38.1). … Babers is 0-3 against Notre Dame since arriving at Syracuse, losing those games by an average of 24.7 points. … Offensive coordinator Robert Anae, 63, spent the previous six seasons in the same role at Virginia after two different starts as OC at BYU. He is 0-4 when calling plays against the Irish – two losses apiece with the Cavaliers (2019, 2021) and Cougars (2005, 2013) — with an average output of 14.8 points.

Notre Dame Head coach Marcus Freeman leads the team out before the Notre Dame vs UNLV NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.
(Photo: Michael Caterina, South Bend Tribune)

Edge: Notre Dame

Predictions

TOM NOIE: Syracuse 30, Notre Dame 27 — Marcus Freeman said after the UNLV game that Notre Dame is a good team that doesn't always play like one. The Irish will be good Saturday, but not good enough.

MIKE BERARDINO: Notre Dame 23, Syracuse 20 — Another solid road show for Drew Pyne, who was a different QB indoors in the win over BYU.

JUSTIN FROMMER: Notre Dame 29, Syracuse 20 — The stadium formerly known as the “Carrier Dome" could be a house of horrors for visiting teams. However, Notre Dame builds off its win against UNLV while Syracuse lets its blown opportunity at Clemson bleed into this week. 

MICHAEL WANBAUGH: Notre Dame 24, Syracuse 23 — Flip a coin on this one. Michael Mayer and timely defense should bail the Irish out in the JMA Wireless Dome.

Notre Dame (4-3) vs. No. 16 Syracuse (6-1) 

  • When: Saturday at noon EST 
  • Where: JMA Wireless Dome (49,057), Syracuse, N.Y. 
  • TV/Radio: ABC, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 
  • Line: Syracuse opens as a one-point favorite  
  • Series: Notre Dame leads 7-3 
  • Last meeting: Notre Dame won 45-21 in 2020 at Notre Dame Stadium